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How To Create A Dramatic Landscape With Adobe Photoshop

Here's how I created a dramatic landscape using a range of photo manipulation techniques in Photoshop.

|  Adobe Photoshop
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In this tutorial, I'll show you how I created a dramatic tutorial using a range of photo manipulation techniques in Photoshop. You'll learn how to blend stock images into a cohesive scene, create light effects, enhance light and contrast and tell stories in the composition. 

Note: This is an advanced level tutorial and, therefore, you should have a basic knowledge of Photoshop before proceeding as I'm not going to cover the basics such as how tools, masks and adjustment layers work. If you are a beginner, check out my Best Photoshop Tutorial round-ups to learn more about Adobe Photoshop. Also, I am using Photoshop CC 2014 for this tutorial.

To create your own dramatic landscape, you'll need various images you can manipulate into one photograph. I used 5 different images which featured different elements and these were a landscape, an interesting sky, a mountain range for the background, people walking and a path. 

Let's dive right in!


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Step 1 - Create A Document In PS

First, create a new document in Photoshop by selecting File > New and give it the following settings:


Create A New Layer


Step 2 - Open Up Your Landscape 

Next, place the landscape image into the document by using the 'Place' command (File > Place Embedded).


Landscape image


Step 3 - Find The Quick Selection Tool 

Use the Quick Selection (W) tool to select the sky/background of the image (shown below).

Selection tool


While the selection is active, click on the second icon at the bottom of the layer panel to add a layer mask and extract the background.



Step 4 - Add A New Sky 

Next, place the sky image into the main document and adjust its position. You''ll also need to drag the sky layer below the landscape layer using the 'Move Tool' (V) otherwise the foreground won't be visible. 


Adding a new sky


Step 5 - Remove Unwanted Details

In the sky shot, there are unwanted buildings which need removing. If you, too, have similar distracting elements, use the 'Clone Stamp Tool' (s) to remove them. I removed the buildings by sampling other parts of the sky to replace them with. To capture a sample, press the alt key then brush over the unwanted details. 


Cloning the sky


Here's how the image looks after removing the buildings: 

Image after cloning


Step 6 - Add Mountains To The Background

Drag the mountain image into the document so the layer it sits on is sandwiched between the landscape and sky layers. You then need to use a mask and brush the sky detail back through. 

Path image


Here's how the image looks with the new layer added:

Here you can see how the composition looks when I turned on the visibility of landscape layer.


Step 7 - Add A Mask

Next, add a mask (highlighted in red) to reveal the new sky using a soft, basic black brush. Always set the flow and brush opacity to 30% for better masking results.

Add a mask to mountain layer

Here are the results after masking the sky:

Results after masking the mountain's sky parts:


Step 8 - Adjust The Levels 

Apply an adjustment layer to the mountains by going to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels. Here are the settings I use to increase the contrast level. Also, don't forget to use the 'Layer Clipping Mask' (press the red icon).

Levels adjustment


Here's how the image looks now: 


Here's how the image looks after a layers adjustment


Step 9 - Play With Colour Balance 

Make a 'Colour Balance' adjustment layer for the mountain layer and adjust the colour to match the landscape layer. I only use the 'Midtone' values but if need to, you can also use the 'Highlights' and 'Shadows' settings.


Color Balance adjustment layer


Here's how the image looks now:


Color Balance results



Step 10 - Create A Colour Balance Layer

Add another 'Colour Balance' adjustment layer but this time, put it above all of the layers apart from the landscape layer. Here are the settings: 

Color Balance adjustment above all layers


Here's how the image looks now:

Colour balance adjustment result


Step 11 - Hue/Saturation Adjustment 

Next, apply a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to reduce the saturation, as shown below. 


Hue/Saturation adjustment layer


Here's how the image looks now:


Hue/Saturation adjustment layer results


Step 12 - Clone Stamp Tool Returns 

In the top right of the image, there is a harsh light that needs removing. To do this, create a new layer and press CTRL + SHIFT + N and then, select the Clone Stamp tool to clone this part.


On the top right side you can notice the harsh light and I don't want that.


Here you can see the results after cloning process:


After cloning


And here's how my layers are arranged: 


Layer panel arrangement



Step 13 - Another Colour Balance Adjustment Layer

Turn your attention back to the landscape layer and make a 'Colour Balance' adjustment layer for it so you can introduce more yellow tones, settings shown below. It's also important to use this layer as Clipping Mask.


Color Balance adjustment layer


Here's how the image looks now:

After Color Balance adjustment


Step 14 - Add A Path 

Open the path image and drag it into the document, as you did previously with the other images. 

Add a path


Step 15 - Remove Unwanted Areas

Use a mask to remove all of the other bits surrounding it. Remember to use a soft, round black brush. 

Add a mask to the path layer


Here are the results after masking:

Results after masking


Step 16 - Path Brightness 

The path brightness doesn't match the rest of the landscape so this needs adjusting and the easiest way to fix it is with a Curves Adjustment layer, shown below. 

Curves adjustment layer


Here's how the image looks now:

Results after Curves adjustment layer


Step 17 - Add People

Next, drag the image containing people just above the path layer, make a selection using the Pen tool then add a mask to the layer to remove what's surrounding them. 

Adding people and applying a mask


Here are the results after masking:

After masking


Now create a new layer below the character's layer and paint the shadow using a soft, round, black brush.

Paint the shadows


Step 18 - Curves Adjustment 

You now want to make a 'Curves' adjustment layer for the characters and reduce the brightness.


Make a Curves adjustment layer


On the layer mask of the 'Curves', the dark effect on the highlighted part of the characters needs removing to maintain some light there. This is because light is also falling from the right side of the photo. 



After removing the dark effect: 

After removing dark effect:


Result so far:

Result so far


Step 19 - Tweak The Levels 

Next, make a 'Levels' adjustment layer on top of all the layers and increase the contrast of the entire composition.


Levels adjustment layer


Results so far: 

Results so far


Step 20 - Lower The Brightness

The brightness level now need lowering so create another 'Curves' adjustment layer and plot points on the graph as shown below. 

Curves adjustment layer


As the dark effect only needs to be on the parts of the image that need it, a layer mask (this time on the Curves layer) can be used to adjust it.

Mask applied


Results so far: 

Results so far


Here's what the Curve Layer Mask looked like after I made the adjustment:

Results on layer mask of the Curves


Step 21 - Paint In Light

Now, create a new layer (named light 1) and brush in light with a soft, round brush and the colour #746c4b to specific areas of the image. Then change the blending mode of the layer to Linear Dodge. 


Use the soft round brush to paint the lights


Here's what the image looks like now:

Change the blending mode of the light 1 layer to Linear Dodge


Step 22 - More Painting

With colour #4b4b43, you can add mist to the image, mostly in the lower sections, with a soft, round brush. Add this to a new layer and title it 'mist'. 


Create mist


As the mist effect is a little strong, it can be lowered to 25% opacity to make it more subtle. 


Mist layer applied


Step 23 - Add More Clouds

You may think the image looks fine as it is but I want to add more clouds to the shot which I can do with the help of the Clone Stamp tool. 

Here's the before and after shots so you can compare them: 

Clone stamp tool - before and after


Step 24 - Apply A Gradient

To increase the contrast of the whole image further, apply a Gradient Map adjustment layer (use the default black/white gradient) and change the blending mode to 'soft light'. 

Gradient Map adjustment layer


Change the blending mode of the Gradient Map to Soft light and increase the contrast.


Step 25 - Clone A Rock 

There's a really annoying rock that's missing a bit but this is easily fixed with the Clone Stamp tool. 


I found a rock incomplete and here you can see the rock


Here you can see how I cloned the rock in order to make it complete:


See how I cloned the rock in order to make it complete


The Final Image 

And that's how I created my dramatic landscape in Photoshop. 

Landscape image - final result


About Author: Bunty Pundir

Bunty Pundir is a self-taught artist from New Delhi, India. He loves writing Photoshop tutorials and sharing knowledge with others. For more tutorials, you can visit PSD Stack

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30 Jul 2017 4:29PM
Why not just create the image in Photoshop in the first place. Seems a little pointless taking the original image.
pink Plus
19 7.0k 9 England
28 Mar 2018 1:25PM
The shadows on the people are in the wrong direction!

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